Throughout my previous 35 years in the broadcast industry, copyright was often cut and dried, as the production house in those days was a one-stop shop with their own production template; they created the work, produced it and subsequently broadcast or published it to a wider audience. Copyright is held by the producers of the work and/or other publishing partners. Generally, it followed the precedents set by the book publishers of old.
We are not a lawyers, and would advise anyone to seek professional legal advice if they so feel, but the best advice is to draw-up an agreement. This need not be complicated; it can be as simple as a few paragraphs of plain English on one side of A4 paper. Before any work is undertaken, agree how the material is to be used, and are there any time restrictions placed as to the period of use?
With the advent of YouTube, and everyone now potential content provider with a video camera, video content has entered a turbulence that was once the Wild West. Frequently people claim Fair Use of others' work which it seems in the USA is (mistakenly) everyone's reasoning. But as we are in the UK, we will confine the scope of this article to the UK where the term fair use means very little. In most cases things are simple and everyone gets on with the job, but occasionally it gets a little more complicated especially if someone changes their mind or does something unexpected after the event.
In many photographic shoots a photographer or videographer might be paid to provide imagery in abstract; the one-off, hired by-the-day, or by-the-hour. They may have lit the scene and the subject, framed the image and produced a picture, but it may well be in isolation - only a small fragment of the overall visual story perhaps. The photographer is paid a fee for the work, having previously agreed to shoot and provide (passed on the material with no further involvement); and by agreement, relinquishes all present and future rights to their work. This is the classic 'buy-out' - it is likely as a matter of courtesy they receive a credit for their work.
However, the agreement might be different. Perhaps the photographer (or videographer) is the main creative contributor and spends a much greater amount of time crafting their work to shape the final product. As individuals, the photographer and their client (the person who hires them) each has a right to agree or disagree; to accept or decline terms - to enter into an agreement about the principal and finer detail if each so desires.
As a fictional example, a production company (we will call them Good2Go Productions) is hired to produce a documentary video - like Grand Designs. They are hired by a builder, who has himself been hired by the owners of a run-down country house to renovate the house and surrounding property. The builder believes there is a good opportunity to promote his work by having a video documentary produced of the renovation to use on his website, from which he feels he may obtain more work as a result. The builder is to use the video to promote and market their services on their website and at trade shows and in publicity pamphlets as house and property restorers and builders.
The builder first obtains the agreement of the property owner - they have no objection - they are happy to let the builder just get on with it.
So here is the first hurdle crossed; the house owner has granted permission to Good2Go's client, the builder. The permission granted is unconditional as the house owner has not placed any restrictions on any part of the video production. The builder tells Good2Go how the video is to be used and what is intended and an agreement is formed. As to how the video is produced, Good2Go Productions outline their ideas. The builder agrees to the production outline. The builder enters into a contract with Good2Go Productions to produce the video documentary and shooting begins a month later.
Good2Go Productions grant their client the builder video copyright for its intended use for which Good2Go are paid for their video production skills. If at a later time there is any dispute concerning video copyright between any of the parties, including the house owner, then referral is made to the agreements made.
It is vitally important to agree intention and usage of the materials from the beginning - to get a clear understanding between everyone. Alternatively you as the client can ask for a buy-out, whereby both agree material can be used without restriction once completed.
This is the general rule within the professional video production industry and other media-creative industries. There will always be the exception to the rule, but it's always best to agree the rule first.
© Spare Wheel Productions